Proof of Life is in the Form 7

Form 7162 Proof of Life

Form 7162 Proof of Life

Do you live overseas and receive Social Security? Are you aware your payment could be cut off next February if you haven’t filed Proof of Life?

I found out about this last year when our then Warden, Rick Griffith, dropped by a party to give us the scoop.  Right here in Panama about 500 people had just been cut off and he wanted to make sure all the people in his district knew what was happening.

Preventing Fraud

As a concerned citizen, you are no doubt properly outraged at the thought of Social Security fraud.  Well, right now, so is the Social Security Administration. And one step they are taking to prevent it from happening among deceased expats  is to make sure they aren’t.    So they want to be sure you are alive before they send your check.

Why, is obvious.  Why it can happen is not so obvious.  It seems that the US does not now recognize foreign death certificates.  Whether it ever did, I do not know, but right now it does not.  In order for a US citizen to be officially dead on foreign soil, the US Embassy on that soil has to file paperwork back home to the effect.  This leaves a lovely, easy loophole for the dishonest, and so some folk continue collecting for those who have already slipped their mortal coils in fact, but not on paper.

Enter the Proof of Life, form 7162.  Now, if you rush to the link and get one this instant, you will see nothing on the form that obviously states “Yes! I hearby swear I live!” or anything remotely similar.  I have often called tardy friends and demanded “Are you still alive?” but I guess it must be rude for a government agency to do that.  I guess the “proof” you are alive lies in the act of completing the paperwork and filing it with the correct authorities.

If you are in good odor with the SSA, you can expect to receive said form or a request to fill it out every two years.  This is said to arrive by mail in May or June.  If your social security number ends in 00-49, then yours comes in even years.  If it ends in 50- 99, then you will get it in odd years.  You have pretty much until the end of that year to fill it out and get it back to SSA.

That’s plenty of time to lose the form or forget to do it.

And then, in, probably, February of the following year, your check will go up in poof.

I can hear you – I’ve heard it dozens of times. “But I have direct deposit and my check goes right into a bank in the US.” That’s nice for you, and you can keep it that way, but the SSA STILL wants your current PHYSICAL location and the form.  It is, most unfortunately, THE LAW.  So…

Lots of us live from check to check, so the three to six months of red-tape and panic while your payment is reinstated will very likely not be welcome.  As I said, last year over 500 people here in Panama got cut off.  It’s much easier to just be proactive and fill the thing out, then take it or mail it to the ACS Unit at your Embassy.  If you have been out of the country for over six months, THE LAW applies to you.  Sorry.

What’s involved?

 Just two simple things.

(1) Social Security wants to know WHERE you are physically and that you are alive.  So they ask for a mailing address in your country of residence.  If there’s no local delivery and you haven’t got a PO Box or whatever, no problem, darling.  Just give the particulars of the local post office with “General Delivery” as your address.  For example, if you live in, say Playa Uverito, where there is no Post Office, then you use closest one, which is in Las Tablas.  Your address would be something like this:

Joe Schmo
General Delivery
Las Tablas, Los Santos
Republic of Panama

But not quite.

GO INTO the Post Office and confirm that.  The postal folk will tell you how something sent to you should be properly addressed, which may include your cell phone number (so they can call you and let you know something has arrived for you).  Since they are going to be receiving your love correspondence with the SSA, they may also want a bit more information, including (probably) a copy of your passport and your physical address (as close as you can get it). As a point of interest, your electric bill probably has a good address on it, if your situation isn’t Number-Street-City friendly.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to use the address you give Social Security for anything except communications from them.  Just remember to check periodically.  Unless you raise some kind of dust, you’ll probably ever only hear from them each December, regarding your payments for the following year.

(2) The second thing the SSA wants from you is a signed Proof of Life form, in which you swear you are a US citizen and other facts pertaining to whether or not they should pay you.

That’s it.  Apparently, if you can manage to have an address in your country of residence and fill out a form, you are officially still alive and they will keep those checks and letters coming.

7 thoughts on “Proof of Life is in the Form

  • 4sarge

    Message for U.S. Citizens: Social Security Benefits

    February 3, 2015ACS MessagesACSDon Ray

    Here is the latest ACS message from the FBU in the U.S. Embassy in panama City.

    U.S. Embassy Panama
    Consular Section
    Federal Benefits Unit

    The Social Security Administration recently informed us that there are still over 300 Social Security recipients residing in Panama who have not returned their proof of life form. In May/June of each year these forms are sent to the mailing address recipients have on record with the SSA. A second request is mailed in October.

    If you meet any of the conditions below, you were required to comply with this requirement in 2014:
    ◾Beneficiary with a representative payee or
    ◾Beneficiary aged 90 and over or
    ◾The terminal digits of your SSN ends in 00 – 49

    If you have not yet returned your proof of life form to the Federal Benefits Unit or if you wish to obtain a blank form, please contact us immediately. The Social Security Administration will start suspending benefits in February 2015.

    • JK Mikals Post author

      Possibly it is just “red tape,” but in this case, ignoring it can have painful financial consequences for anyone who depends on receiving that monthly check. I have yet to meet an expat who didn’t puff up and sputter when first informed about this, but compliance is definitely the the better part of valor if you depend on that check to live.

    • 4sarge

      No, I’d Never Ignore It, great info, IF You want to keep your check coming. My reference was to the fact of SS paying in the States to folks that have been Dead for years. One question for clarification. If your SS is direct deposited in the States in an American bank and you use a Credit or Debit Card, is that form still necessary?

      • JK Mikals Post author

        Yes, the form is necessary if you have been LIVING outside the US for over THREE months (I just checked), no matter where your check is direct deposited or mailed, to a US bank or otherwise. And if you are using the address of a friend or relative living in the US for your Social Security address, but YOU live outside the US, you are not compliant with the law. If you use a mail forwarding service in the US, that address is also not compliant with the law. SSA wants to know your PHYSICAL location. You may have a US mailing address for anything except SSA.

  • Sunnymikkel

    Listen to this post, we know of someone, here on the Aauero, that did not head this advice and it took them 5 months to restart their SS payments. Could you go that long without your SS? Great post Miz Warden!

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